Playing high-stakes poker can get your heart beating like nothing else. Unfortunately, that racing heart is one of many bodily functions that could give you away during a round.
And when other players can see your poker tell, you can kiss your chips good-bye.
Why Poker Tells Matter
Personal mannerisms portray a person’s feelings. These mannerisms vary from person to person and range in degree, depending on how strongly a person feels.
Reading a person’s mannerisms is an important skill in many professions. For example, law enforcement officers often read suspects’ mannerisms to determine if they’re lying. Key mannerisms officers look for include avoiding eye contact and hesitating at certain points when talking.
In the world of poker, reading a person’s mannerisms is also an important skill to master. How a person reacts to a certain card can clue you into to the kind of hand they’re holding.
That doesn’t just hold true for poker rounds played face-to-face, either. Players who participate in online poker games must watch their timing when making choices. Taking too long or short a time deciding portrays confidence or a lack thereof.
Common Poker Tells
Part of mastering the all-important poker face is learning what these tells are. That way, you can avoid indulging them during your next high-stakes round.
Twitching fingers are the result of increased blood flow. A rapid heartbeat, which is often caused by stress, leads to your blood pumping more quickly all throughout your body.
Other common symptoms are mild stomach sickness and feeling faint.
Not much can be done to stop your fingers from twitching. Taking a deep breath and forcing yourself to relax can help. Just make sure that deep breath is subtle enough your opponents don’t notice.
Voice cracks portray high levels of anxiety. In high-stakes poker, only one thing can cause anxiety of that level. That thing is having a bad hand.
As soon as your opponents realize you’re holding a bad hand, they will go in for the kill.
To prevent voice cracks, have a bottle of water at your disposal. Take sips before you speak, regardless of whether or not you’re thirsty. Excuse yourself to refill the bottle periodically.
If you stick to drinking only when you’re anxious, your opponents will notice and figure out your game.
Another way to prevent voice cracks from giving you away is to avoid talking except when necessary. Nod or shake your head if possible.
Better a quiet game than a lost game, right?
Swallowing Or Taking A Gulp
Swallowing or gulping is an indication of dry mouth. Dry mouth can occur during periods of high stress. Poker games are breeding grounds for dry mouth, especially when your hand isn’t great.
To combat dry mouth, keep that water bottle handy and refill as needed.
Nothing says, “I just got a great hand!” like grinning as soon as you pick up a card.
Grinning can be difficult to control. The muscles in your mouth move up against your will.
When you fight them, you’re left with a strange, tense or twitchy look. In both cases, even an amateur player could sniff you out.
If you suddenly break eye contact with your opponents, you might as well just give them your chips. Broken eye contact is a sure sign of anxiety and having a bad hand.
Likewise, making eye contact when you have a good hand can give away your position. It can cause you to break out into the telltale grin mentioned above.
The best approach to looking at your opponents during a round is to keep an easy, relaxed look. That way, your making and breaking eye contact remains gentle enough not to set off any alarms.
Fake It To Make It
It is worth noting that not all poker tells are genuine. Many experienced players are so practiced in the art of poker that they throw out fake tells. The intent is to influence you into making a certain action.
Then, after you’ve made the action, they jump on you like a lion on a helpless gazelle.
It’s hard to know who’s bluffing a tell and who isn’t, especially if you’re new to the poker world. The best technique is experience. If possible, learn about your opponents and how good they are at playing poker.
How To Maintain A Poker Face
Now we know the common poker tells you should avoid while playing. Next, let’s discuss how to keep up a winning poker face.
Maintain Regular Posture
The key to maintaining your normal posture is relaxation.
Take a deep breath prior to starting. Roll your shoulders and then let them settle back into their normal, comfortable position.
Shake or stretch any tense or fidgety limbs you may have. Also, roll your head to stretch out and sooth your neck muscles.
The idea is to break any tension before the game starts. Because once it starts, that tension is going to skyrocket.
Avoid Fidgeting and Fidgety Behavior
Pay attention to your body language — specifically your hands — at all times.
Don’t pick at your clothes or skin in any way. Don’t tap your fingers, crack your knuckles, or bite your nails. Additionally, don’t rub or scratch at your face or rub your hands together.
All of these movements are testaments to a bad hand.
If you find it difficult to keep control of your hands, stow your spare hand under the table. Squeeze a stress ball or else hold your hand between your legs.
Keep an eye on your holding hand. Make sure you aren’t holding your cards too tightly. A tight grip produces white knuckles, and white knuckles mean high anxiety.
Maintain A Relaxed Face
Before beginning, clear your mind. Experienced players can read your thoughts as plainly as daylight if you have too much on your mind.
To avoid staring, blink here and there. Just don’t blink too often, or the others will know you’re nervous. If you still have trouble, try wearing sunglasses.
Focus on keeping your mouth and jaw relaxed. Doing so will help you avoid grinning or making unwanted sighs later.
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